Hunters look­ing big and strong onit­s25th birth­day

Hunters is 25 years old. Chief ex­ec­u­tive Gly­nis Frew re­veals the se­crets of its suc­cess. Sharon Dale re­ports

Yorkshire Post - Property - - PROPERTY NEWS -

THERE IS much to re­joice about at Hunters Prop­erty plc. The York-based com­pany is cel­e­brat­ing its 25th an­niver­sary this month and with more than 200 branches across the UK, it is well on the way to achiev­ing its goal of be­com­ing the na­tion’s favourite es­tate agency.

The suc­cess is all the more sweet for chief ex­ec­u­tive Gly­nis Frew, who fought to keep the firm afloat through the long and bloody re­ces­sion, which dec­i­mated the prop­erty in­dus­try.

One of her cop­ing strategies was play­ing Whit­ney Hous­ton’s One Mo­ment in Time on her car stereo dur­ing the drive into the of­fice and on the way home. “It helped me to keep think­ing, ‘we will get through’ but we had to lay peo­ple off who had been with us for years and that was very hard,” she says.

Dur­ing the five-year slump, she and fel­low direc­tors got out from be­hind their desks and did ev­ery­thing from staffing the phones to con­duct­ing view­ings and clean­ing the of­fices. “It was a de­press­ing, hor­ri­ble time but it taught us that we have to be pre­pared and it brought us closer to our staff.”

When the dawn on this dark­est of pe­ri­ods came in 2013, Hunters bounced back and is now one of the fastest-grow­ing es­tate agen­cies in Bri­tain. Its ser­vices cover res­i­den­tial sales, let­tings, in­vest­ment, res­i­den­tial block man­age­ment, auc­tions, land and new homes, and is made up of a com­bi­na­tion of its own branches and fran­chises.

The firm was launched by Gly­nis’s brother, Hunters chair­man Kevin Hollinrake, and John Water­house in 1992. The two men are still in­volved, although Kevin is busy as MP for Thirsk and Mal­ton, while John is in charge of auc­tions.

“Kevin keeps a very close eye on us and lets us know if he thinks any­thing is wrong,” says Gly­nis, whose back­ground is in sales man­age­ment, train­ing and mar­ket­ing. A high flyer and a fre­quent flyer, she trav­elled the world ad­vis­ing top brands, such as Pepsi, be­fore join­ing Hunters in 1999.

Friendly and re­fresh­ingly down to earth, she has an open­door pol­icy so staff at Hunters HQ in York can drop into her of­fice and ask for help and ad­vice “whether it’s about the pot rota or chang­ing a form.”

The build­ing is also the base for na­tional staff train­ing, which is at the top of the firm’s agenda.

OPEN DOOR POL­ICY: “We un­der­stand the im­por­tance of help­ful, well-trained staff and our cus­tomer sat­is­fac­tion rat­ings are out­stand­ing.

“We in­vested the equiv­a­lent of £500,000 in train­ing last year and all cour­ses are free to fran­chise part­ners. We also have our own qual­i­fi­ca­tions,” says Gly­nis, who has just signed off a big-bud­get spend on ad­ver­tis­ing in­clud­ing a mar­ket­ing cam­paign on Chan­nel 4.

The com­pany is also in­vest­ing heav­ily in a sys­tem that will en­able clients to track the progress of their sale on­line.

The strategies have paid off. Last year, Hunters Prop­erty Group opened 30 new of­fices and con­tin­ues to ex­pand. It has just ac­quired Bes­ley Hill, an es­tate agency net­work in the South West, and its aim is to have 500 branches.

While there is much to be pos­i­tive about, Brexit lurks in the back­ground threat­en­ing to spoil the 25th birth­day party. Many agents are short of stock and the buy-to-let mar­ket has also slowed thanks to in­creased tax­a­tion and an ex­tra three per cent stamp duty.

“The hous­ing mar­ket is driven by how peo­ple feel about the econ­omy but things are start­ing to move and we are see­ing more peo­ple put their prop­er­ties on the mar­ket. Buy-to-let is still pop­u­lar be­cause it is some­thing peo­ple can see and un­der­stand and long term it per­forms well,” says Gly­nis, who is con­cerned about the govern­ment’s pro­posed ban on ad­min­is­tra­tion fees for tenants. She would pre­fer to see a cap.

“The prob­lem with the ban is that some of those ad­min­is­tra­tion costs will be passed to land­lords who will in­crease rents to com­pen­sate so tenants won’t be any bet­ter off,” she says.

For those tenants des­per­ate to get on the prop­erty lad­der, she has this ad­vice: “It’s not where you start it’s where you fin­ish, so buy in a low value area and then trade up.” As for up-and-com­ing York­shire hotspots, she cites Ripon and Skip­ton.

Gly­nis Frew is the chief ex­ec­u­tive of Hunters, and saw the York­shire firm through the dark years of the re­ces­sion.

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